Illumination 2:12: Fight Music, And Flute

Slumped against the window, staring at Malachi, Jehane held her breath. When she was very still, she could hear Seth’s music after all, quiet and controlled, weaving in and around Malachi’s music. Had it always been there? The water made it so hard to listen. Her held breath rushed out of her.

Malachi looked up at the building Jehane leaned against. “You don’t want to want to fight, but your friend does.”

Seth’s voice drifted out of the air, somewhere above Jehane. “Actually, I thought I’d listen, too. Always expanding my horizons, that’s me.”

A silhouette limped down the street. It was the man they’d left Natalie and Linc behind to face, with his raspy, twisted music. He reeked of blood. “Time to go, kid. The experiment’s over. They got the gate open again.”

Malachi gave the other man the briefest look, before returning his gaze to Jehane.

The other man spat. “Your neck, kid. I’m out.” He limped away.

Breathlessly, Jehane said, “You don’t have to go. You could come home.”

Slowly, Malachi shook his head. “But Emily would have liked you now.” He looked at her another moment, though, his eyes fathomless depths.

A shadow leapt off the ledge above Jehane’s head. Malachi flickered, gone before Seth landed in a crouch.

Jehane wrapped her arms around herself as Seth stood up. He brushed himself off. “Worth a try. Well, he didn’t seem too bad. You know, troubled, but I’m sure therapy would help. Let’s get home.” He pulled her to her feet.

“Do you think Natalie and Linc are all right?”

“Of course. Didn’t you hear our Mystery Murderer say they got the gate open again? Let go see it, though. There’s something I want to check out.”

As they walked back to the emergence point, Seth said, “Good job drawing him out, by the way. At the end there… that was nice.” His tone of voice was so diffident, so uncharacteristic, that she stopped to stare at him.

He gave her a wry grin and in more his usual tone, he said, “I don’t know how you would have backed it up, but I’m sure it would have been entertaining.”

The emergence gate activated as they approached and people poured out, most of them heavily armed. The Tanist was among them, disheveled and angry. She spotted Seth and Jehane immediately and stalked over to them. There was a smear of blood on her cheek. “Are those bastards still here?”

Seth said, “They just ran away.”

The Tanist closed her fingers around Jehane’s arm. “Were you able to detect them?”

“Y-yes,” Jehane admitted. She could still, very faintly, hear Malachi’s music running alongside the music of the murderer.

“Find them, now. Track them. Take us to them. We’ll get cars—”

“Why? What’s the hurry?” said Seth.

The Tanist’s face was an ugly mask. “So we can kill them. Those bastards sent a Cambion into the Tower. It caused phenomenal amounts of damage before escaping to the land outside. Whoever they are, they’ve just declared war on us and I want to end that war now. With extreme prejudice.”

Jehane went cold. She didn’t care if the murderer died, but he was with Malachi. She felt connected to Malachi, like on some level they were the same, even now. He was strange and abrupt but she was too. She wanted to look at him more, talk to him, and understand. He’d saved her once. They were both fading out of her ability to detect them—

The Tanist shook her. “Which direction?”

Abruptly, Seth asked, “Is Natalie all right?”

Coldly, the Tanist said, “Yes, but Linc may not survive the night.” She released Jehane and checked her gun. Jehane, ice chewing up her insides, couldn’t tell if the gesture was a nervous habit or an implied threat.

Seth moved so he could look into Jehane’s eyes, which put him coincidentally between Jehane and the Tanist when he turned to face the Tower leader. “They were performing an experiment. And they had abilities that we know nothing about. Going after them right now would be revenge rather than sense. I spent half an hour trying to sneak up on Malachi and it just didn’t work. He’s fast and sensitive— knowing where he is isn’t enough. I think we need to take some time and think about it.”

The Tanist narrowed her eyes. “Who asked you, kid? One of us is a punk who doesn’t even come to mandatory meetings, and one of us is in charge.”

Jehane hadn’t realized how often a smile lingered somewhere on Seth’s face until now, when there was no trace of a smile left. His eyes glittered and his mouth was a straight line. “All right. I tried it your way. My way: I’m taking Jehane home. We’ve done what you sent us to do. Get the hell out of our way.”

The shadow music crashed against itself. Jehane was certain somebody was going to get stabbed. Or shot. Or both. The tension between the young man and the older woman was suffocating, a wire around her throat. When it snapped, somebody was going to get hurt.

She dragged in a ragged breath. There was only one thing she could do to get herself and Seth home without further trouble.

With that thought in mind, she let the fear and panic and stress overwhelm her. And, as her legs slid out from under her, she burst into tears.

 

 

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